Accepting Yourself Despite What Others Think
Do you accept yourself?
Had someone asked me this question even at the height of my self-hatred I would have said yes. I would have said yes because when I was not ‘asleep’, I was either drinking alcohol, thinking about drinking alcohol, or otherwise planning or doing something else to distract myself from my mind; my thoughts.
Some years ago my thoughts were not friendly toward me; I loathed myself. And not for anything in particular that I was aware of. And not because I was addicted to alcohol. Alcohol was my friend for a very long time as it helped me to run from my thoughts. But when the day came I realized something needed to change, I put the alcohol down and that’s when the pain of myself screamed in my face and stayed screaming. I did not get this Truthful and painful awareness until I put the ‘alcoholic solution’ down – which is one way to understand that my self-hatred was not born from drinking. (If it were, I should have been ‘fixed’ when I quit drinking.)
No, this isn’t about being an alcoholic. Alcohol was just my solution to the unawareness of not accepting myself. And I hope to share my story to help others who may be in a similar place or on a similar path.
How do you know if you accept yourself? Do you hear your mind judging you and shaming you? Do you put labels on yourself subconsciously believing if you could just ‘do better’ that label would disappear? Do you measure your worthiness in accord to how ‘perfect’ you can be? Or have you given up into the black morass of self-loathing and ‘have accepted’ yourself as worthless? Or do you judge others? Judging others is a safe way to catch yourself judging yourself because other people are just our reflections. [PLEASE do not feel any shame attached with judging despite it’s ‘spiritually incorrect’ connotations. Of course we judge. I judge. I judge as often as I can and I love it. It’s that judgment in the form of condemnation or ‘you should feel ashamed!’ that condemns ourselves.]
Because, once again, it’s always about us. Always. Never about the other person. Never.
“There comes a point when you can do such and such a thing or suffer!”
Normally I really dislike “there comes a point when” statements and of course, that’s part of my story. “No…there doesn’t necessarily ever become a point!” Some people are above the point or below the point or beside the point or have many points or none at all. But this discussion about recognition is better served for a later date because today I want to discuss something reality-based that is important for every person who desires to know how – to know how: Accepting yourself and how to do it.
A friend tagged me in a an image with this quote by Laurell Hamilton and I enjoy when this friend tags me because he doesn’t tag me with gnomic ‘feel good’ aphorisms that have been turned into ‘feel good’ or ‘self-help’ cliches that people accept without thought or inquiry. I dislike cliches – many of them codependently inclined in their regard to romantic love – and that’s one of my brain screams.
First let’s take a look at Hamilton’s insightful quote:
“There comes a point when you either embrace who and what you are, or condemn yourself to be miserable all your days. Other people will try to make you miserable; don’t help them by doing the job yourself.” ~ Laurell K. Hamilton
This is beautiful isn’t it? Truly it is a piece of inspiration to really know and embrace what that means for the one who has escaped caring more about other peoples’ opinions than caring about being , accepting, embracing the “who or what” they are.
This is a universally understandable idea. Who among us doesn’t remember being a child and trying so hard to please or get approval from either one or both of our parents or some other authority figure in our life? As children, we do seek to please for our validation as worthy human beings; Whether it’s cleaning our room well, getting a good grade our parents are proud of, or eating everything on our plate [which isn’t the healthiest “good girl” or “good boy” associative message to send to impressionable children lest they grow up “eating everything on their plate” in order to “be approved of” to the exclusion of their physical health]. So if we stop at childhood, we see how people-pleasing has its honest beginnings in being accepted as a member into our own families.
Why and How People Pleasing Goes Wrong
For the reader familiar with my work you understand this to be a valued commodity in the codependent discord and dis-ease arena; People pleasing to the exclusion of being yourself, who you are, or who you desire to be.
What was once simply a childlike way to gain acceptance and approval then turns into a way of living.
We don’t need to worry about Hamilton’s advice to ’embrace ourselves’ because as long as we can contort ourselves really well and hide those parts of ourselves we’ve been well-taught or otherwise learned are unfriendly, ‘socially inappropriate,’ ‘religiously inappropriate’ or otherwise unworthy of coming out to play – or at least should remain hidden – then certainly we’ll be so busy ‘being embraced’ by others that we’ll forget we’re not embracing ourselves or who we really are. Uh, right?
Parents show their children they are pleased with them by rewarding them with affection or other positive reinforcements that the child finds value in. So the child cleans their room and is validated. The child gets an A and is validated. The child helps with the dishes and is validated. S/He also plays wells with others, doesn’t argue, isn’t loud, is very agreeable, and so forth. S/He learns – through conditioning and training – that these aspects of her behavior are desirable. And at school s/he sees (subconsciously) that her teachers, school system, and peer network operate the same way.
As adolescence and adulthood approaches, something happens (or doesn’t happen, rather) and some of us continue placing increasing emphasis on what others think of us rather than giving any thought or consideration to who we are, ourselves. And sometimes this goes so wrong that we ‘chameleonize’ – change according to our surroundings – for approval and never really do get to “know who are” much less “embrace and accept who we are.”
As long as we’re being appreciated for our (secretively chameleon) efforts, we’re safe.
As long as we’re never confronted with ourselves, we can avoid self-discovery. Methods of avoiding self-discovery or self-awareness (leading to self-acceptance) are plentiful: People pleasing, relationships, the imbibing of alcoholism, drugs, gambling, or any activity that can take our minds from the nagging feeling we’re not really matching our outsides up with our insides.
But one day, if we are lucky, we get to that magical point.
I was lucky. I got to that magical point of awareness that I did not accept myself. And I was set free. Once I realized I did not accept myself, I went about learning how to do it. This did not happen for me until I quit drinking. Alcohol was my escape route of all problems so that when I put it down, I began peeling myself life an onion. And the first order of business was addressing this awareness of self-hate.
I didn’t just quit drinking and then wake up thinking, “Gee it seems like a great day to discover I hate myself. And now with this new insight, I am going to go intentionally seeking how to accept myself instead!” No. Not like that. More like this: After I quit drinking, there I was – not numb. And because I was going to *Alcoholics Anonymous, I was not numb and also surrounding myself with other humans who served as a mirror:
- So that when I was addressed for being too skinny.
- So that when “Fake it til you make it” became an echo in my head.
- So that when others were speaking of ‘accepting abuse’ because they deserved it.
- So that when ‘being an alcoholic’ was equivocated with being ‘sick, selfish, and self-centered.’
- So that when I’m hearing that “selfishness and self-centeredness was the root of our problems.”
These statements and ideas served as a magnification that I’d already believed: That I need to try harder – and fake it if necessary – to do what these people tell me so that I am no longer sick, selfish, self-centered and if I am abused by people in my life in the meantime it is because I am a sick, selfish, and self-centered alcoholic.
The problem is that I had alcohol to numb these messages before and now I did not. SO… ‘my’ eating disorder took its place and so sporadic marathons of staring in the mirror telling my reflection how much I hated myself.
Addressing the self-hate immediately following sobriety had become important for me if I were to continue to not drink. Despite being told by others in the fellowship that (if I were doing it right) A.A. would solve all of my problems, I just could not wait until I started ‘doing it right’ or I was going to be back to square one; Self-loathing AND drunk.
Accepting Yourself Despite What Others Think
People Telling You What to Do or Who You Are
So that when I asked friends in the fellowship – who seemed to be on the same path I was on – for specific direction or help, their ‘advice’ or ‘help’ was not enough. And this is how I was reaffirmed to “know them by their fruits.” (I am not going to ask an angry person how to be happy or a non-self-aware person how to become self-aware.) And it was at that point in my recovery, I was taught to quit assuming that just because a physical body is in the same location as my physical body, that we’re operating from similar levels or motivations.
Back to Hamilton’s quote. ‘Other people will try to make you miserable‘ not because they are ‘naturally’ cruel, hateful or despotic but because an ‘unaccepted state of self’ cannot accept ‘accepted states of others’. There is a kind of anger – based in unrecognized envy maybe – that arises in a certain personality who senses a freedom in another personality. They’re angry because you’ve escaped the Rules of Shame and Blame or they are angry because you’re no longer buying their Shame or Blame. OR they’re jealous because they feel as if they can never escape and ‘why are you so lucky that you get to have your own rules, anyway?’ And you will discover this when you begin gaining your freedom from the bondage of other peoples’ opinions. AND this is not your business. And accept yourself anyway. :) And if these people are lucky, they may gain the recognition one day that they, too, can escape the cycle of their shame and blame based hell; That it’s NOT reserved for just certain people.
After knowing, accepting, and embracing yourself, you will notice how your compassion for ‘miserable’ people will begin to replace any retaliatory anger naturally. You won’t even have to try. And I’m not saying don’t get angry. Had it not been for my getting angry in early sobriety, I’d have never known the Truth. Don’t turn anything I say into any sort of rule of worship or you’ll miss the magic. I say this for the former me/s out there who found/find comfort in rules. [See Codependent Recovery.]
HSP Addendum & Example
Let’s say you are a Highly Sensitive Person and you do know precisely that someone is trying purposefully to make you miserable or feel shame, humiliation, or embarrassment. In fact, you’ve felt this person’s energy or have read their mind so often you’ve resorted to just needing to stay away or you’re looking at buying ‘Protection from ‘Psychic Vampires’ books. This is not in your imagination; Your crown chakra is letting you know exactly everything you need to know about this person in this instance and they’re out to harm you despite their falsely sweet nature that everyone else is buying.
How can you NOT feel anger at knowing that another human being is intent on hating you, right? (Well, if you keep at this process, you’ll notice your lack of anger increasing despite what you Know about people and their motives; But you’re not here yet, maybe, so let’s see how to get here.)
Go deeper. You’re an HSP / Evolved Spirit / Seeker so you can do this. Don’t let the ‘messages’ from your Knowing be the end of it; Go deeper. You have other Gifts at your disposal. You think you’re going to be saddled with this Gift of Knowing for either no reason or for the purpose of it to make you ‘feel angry?’ Did God give you Knowledge you could walk (or any other ability) just so you could Know you could walk and then get angry because of it? Of course not.
The purpose of (any ability) the ability to walk is to walk to the current goal you have in mind; the kitchen, the park, the bed. So if we simply end at the Knowing of a Thing without using that Knowing as a bridge for higher purpose/fulfillment of desire/ healing /enlightenment, anger is what happens. Chronic anger happens to victims of the mind. And I’ve been a victim to my mind. So just do not stop there in the feeling of anger- whatever you do – and all will be well. Feel the anger, yes. But don’t start worshiping it – it’s only an emotion; a tool. To stay stuck in it is to victimize yourself: “Well, I fear/hate this person back because she’s trying to sabotage me and there is nothing I can do.” [And that fear/hate will taint every aspect of your life.]
When someone is trying/attempting to tell you who you are or trying to invoke misery onto you or give you information that resonates no Awareness of Truth inside of you – you may be provoked into messages from childhood of being put in that ‘box’ or situation and your ego comes to your defense, in this instance for example, and tells you, “They’re trying to do to me what I’ve worked so hard to overcome! I HATE that they’re doing that!” Yes. Despite messages to the contrary, anger can have value.
Just do not stop with the anger. You have it for a reason for YOU to get through. Keep going through it. Stay confused in it as you clumsily try to discover yourself. Talk to someone who’s been on this path and let them be your light for now. If you’re in a 12 step program, do a 4th step. If you’re in therapy, tell your counselor. Call a trusted friend and be honest with where you are. Be angry. Be as angry as you need to. Journal the anger. Tell the story. Start a blog. Primal scream. Paint. Work out. Whatever you do, don’t keep it stuck inside as a secret feeling and do NOT end it there. It might be a bridge but it is not the destination.
Why Accepting Yourself is Worth it
If I’m gonna do something that seems new or challenging, I want to know why I should. I figure you might too.
I was the self-hating, perfectionistic, low self-esteemer who put on make-up and coiffed my hair and relied on various ego tricks – built in barriers – to try to stop people [the world] from hurting me. And the tricks failed. I was hurt anyway. After stopping drinking I realized people did not even necessarily want to hurt me, but I was hurt anyway. Often.
Not knowing who I was [former chameleon] everything hurt! As soon as I’d adopted a rule for a particular situation, I found out that rule did not apply in another situation. A friend who loved that I smiled and laughed a lot would have another person asking if I was on cocaine. A friend tells me I am pretty and another person tells me I am too skinny. I gain the courage to offer an insight and another person tells me they are offended by my insight. I gained the ability to say ‘No’ when I wanted to say ‘No” and the person to whom I said No, raged on me. And all these were happening AFTER sobriety! Had I paid attention to what people [allegedly sober in A.A. told me], I would have thought I deserved the rage and belittling of others and that I was doing it wrong. It turned out, I was doing it exactly right – I just did not want my feelings hurt in the process. And this was where Self-Acceptance came in.
I realized I wanted healing because the pain was all-encompassing and I no longer wanted chemicals or illusions to save me. And I did not want to be at the whim of the world.
So let me share some gifts I have obtained after Accepting (Embracing) Myself:
1.] When I learned to accept myself I needed no one else’s acceptance. Today I still enjoy peoples’ acceptance – of course I do. It’s nice to have friends and ‘be accepted.’ But magic happened when I realized that when I accept and approve of my own self, I do not ‘need’ others to do it ‘for me.’ That magic was that I was naturally attracting and attracted to others – like me – who either wanted to accept themselves or realized they did not know how. This common bond assures me I have friends AND friends who are on a similar path. If I get off kilter or become vulnerable in a life situation and I “need” someone’s momentary acceptance (until I can find my Truth again), I can call one of these friends.
2.] When I learned to accept myself – I accepted others. And what this looks like is that because I went toe to toe with my internal dialogue, undoing all the illusions, I no longer put those illusions on you. I think I need to color within the lines, so if I have to, you do too. And when you don’t, I judge you with the exact same compassion I judged myself – none. People who brag about being perfectionists? Yeah, I was never one of them but I WAS an internal perfectionist and no, I never bragged. It was a painful black secret. And because I do accept others, when a friend who is vulnerable or in pain and needs external acceptance in the midst of it – I can be there and give it to her until she, too, can re-balance in which she will no longer ‘need’ my acceptance of her. We’re undoing huge illusions here; There’s bound to be faltering in the beginning.
3.] When I learned to accept myself – others did too. This holds hands with #2 up there in that I am almost positive there are people who probably do not accept me 100% – But the amazing beauty is that I do not notice it. Therefore, in my world, everyone accepts me. (This is proof of the old “in the rooms” phrase of “It starts with me; It ends with me.” This is the cornerstone of all Recovery and Spiritual Growth.) Or maybe I have it wrong, maybe everyone really DOES accept me. I love how Byron Katie says, “I know everyone loves me. They just don’t know it yet.” Because, again, it’s OUR junk blocking our love and acceptance of others. OURS. How can we love and accept others if we are such harsh critics of our own Selves? So, like my beloved says, “Stop it.” :)
4.] Freedom and discoveries keep right on coming and do not stop. If someone would have told me 9 years ago that I would have had the courage to do some of the things I have done in the past 9 years, I would not have believed them. Standing on the platform of the “Who I Am” with the foundation being made of diamond and not the ever-changing sand of other peoples’ beliefs or even my own for that matter, I am firm and balanced. This is not to be confused with a ‘firm and balanced ego’ but rather, I have discovered the ever-changing nature of my ego and even accept my ego.
5.] When I learned to accept myself – I no longer feared people. Oh my goodness, I lived in fear of people and their shame and blame of me. It worked on me because I was my biggest shamer and blamer. Metaphysically speaking, our outsides reflect back to us the state of our insides and I love that. I really do. I’d been drunk and self-loathing and carried these illusory beliefs of myself with me despite that I was no longer drinking and so, of course, I would have some Elevated Teachers to teach me how to not hate myself. But more often than the Elevated Teachers, I would encounter others or other life experiences that reflected back my internal dialogue. Which was great for me because it illicited a ‘righteous’ anger that I could bring to a Teacher or Sponsor and get clarification about.
Warning: People Telling You What to Do but Not How
Has anyone ever told you to ‘get over it?’ Right, but they don’t offer how. Stands to reason if you have a problem and someone tells you to ‘get over it’ that they would share with you precisely how, or else it would not be a problem for you in the first place because you already would have known how. The Truth is more likely they don’t know how which is why they’d throw a discompassioned retort your way. In fact, part of my process in early recovery was asking “How?” when I sensed that ‘those lacking in self-awareness or compassion’ were filling me with ‘smart sounding’ advice. It was fun to watch them shut up or get a blank stare while the more enlightened/evolved/Spiritual ones would realize their ego’s error and say, “You know? I don’t know.” [This really happened once.]
Again. Many of us are Baby Buddhas on this path so forgiveness of our own ego is just as essential as the softening toward others’ egos. Certain personalities [HSP’s / Spiritually Evolved/ Abiders of the Intuitive Christ Truth] can sense when another’s hubris or hamartia is speaking and also, when a person’s paradigm is based in their hubris. SO, ask, “How.” Why not? Maybe you’ll be wrong and you’ll learn something or by being a mirror, they’ll learn something. :)
So those are some of the hallmark gifts of self-acceptance and there are others. To say Freedom, Happiness, an Inexpressible Abundance of Love & Compassion for myself and others seems a little silly to share with someone in the current bondage of chameleonization but please believe it happens. AND I encourage you to not believe me. No really. Don’t believe me. I don’t ever want a friend of mine to believe me in anything I say. I want friends to go see for themselves that my testimony is absolutely not unique.
How to Accept Yourself Starting Right Now
If you’ve not yet experienced this path of self-acceptance yet OR if your ego [ie, super-ego] is ‘accepting’ you just fine [which is not the same thing as it can crumble and victimize you at any moment] I DO have some things that worked for me.
1.] Start today with this phrase: “I accept myself today.” Make it a goal to say it 500 times a day for two weeks. Repeat as necessary. I did not find it necessary to repeat this activity since I growth-spurted into self-acceptance during the first week! This told me that I was replacing old self-talk and old internal dialogue that used to say, “You’re stupid!” or “Can’t you do anything right?” Yes, I was a harsh and demanding critic of myself.
Say it aloud. Say it in your head. Sing it. Shout it. Sneak it into conversations with friends. [ie, “I started smoking again and I accept myself today.”] Say it when you spill something on the carpet; When you’re walking through the house; When you burn the rice; When you’re putting on your shoes; When you’re looking in the mirror; When you noticed you gained some weight or lost some weight. Say it when you think you goofed. Say it for a job well done. Just say it!
2.] Make some ‘mistakes’ / Remove your mask / Be vulnerable / Be the ‘Realer’ You
- Mispel some werds and don’t korrect yourself.
- Get a fact wrong in conversation and do not correct yourself when you realize it.
- Color outside the lines on a sheet from a coloring book.
- Mispronounce a word.
- Say “I don’t know.”
- Say no to requests you want to say NO to and do it w/o offering a reason. [ie, Can you give me a ride?]
- Leave your soda can or bottle “accidentally” somewhere – in public – without cleaning up after yourself.
- Let someone give you unsolicited advice (that disagrees with your Spirit) then tell them you are not going to do that.
- If you normally look polished, don’t ‘polish up’ for one day. [ie, Don’t wear make-up. Wear sweats. Don’t shave.]
- Call a friend – when you need help – and straightforwardly ask. [ie, “I need help.” or “Can you help me?”]
- Offer someone you perceive as a non-friendly / enemy a genuine & substantive compliment.
- Embrace an uncomfortable silence. [ie, Sit in it and find the comfort. Breathe….breathe….breathe….]
- Make a needed boundary on a person who intimidates you. [ie, Boss/Dad please don’t talk junk to me about ____.]
- Share a boundary with a FRIEND. [ie, I don’t like it when you joke about my body size.]
- Admit something you are not the proudest of but follow it with, “… and I accept myself.“
These are just a few ‘outside my comfort zone’ exercises I engaged in. And some are quite scary. The point is to begin practicing how to ACCEPT YOURSELF despite inviting the absolute worst [from the world] to happen.
- You leave a can on a table at an A.A. meeting after they ask you clean up after yourself? Yes! Invite someone to correct you AND ACCEPT YOURSELF anyway.
- You set a boundary with someone who intimidates you and they end up RAGING? Good, let them rage and let them keep it AND ACCEPT YOURSELF anyway.
- You say “No” to a colleague who asks to borrow $10 and you do NOT share why? Good! Feel the shame of previous brain messages that tell you you should either loan it OR at least make an excuse AND ACCEPT YOURSELF anyway.
- Someone who thinks they know how to ‘fix’ you, gives you unsolicited advice [like always] and this time you break out of your comfortable, “Okay” only to not ‘take it’ anyway? This time you actually say, “I am not going to do that.” or “That seems like a destructive idea.” or “My Spirit wholeheartedly disagrees with that.” The audacity of you. AND ACCEPT YOURSELF anyway!
3.] Do these supplemental things:
- Read my last article which has valuable ideas and resources of its own merit regarding HOW specifically to get back to you.
- When you catch yourself remembering that you imposed shame on yourself, follow with “…BUT I accept myself today!
There is no conclusion to the magic of self-discovery when you’ve gotten to the magical point of awareness. Awareness is being pointed at us all the time but we’re often so busy going through our lives either running from this, numbing out, being busy, or otherwise in an avoidance or defensive posture. Gangaji would say it’s a mystery why those who arrive at this point, do… and I agree. It’s very special, getting to this point. [Painful, yes, maybe. But special.]
In my case, I had to go directly to Hell and live through cycles of Samsara. And I still may, periodically, because I do enjoy a good horror. But the choice, even in this, is the magic. I know who I am so when I make this choice to descend or ascend, I am choosing – in awareness. I am no longer being unconsciously and mindlessly descended or ascended according to the whims of the world or of other people. And this is my hope for you.
And I accept you. I accept you completely.
Updated November 19, 2012
*Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12 step organization. The program of A.A. – the 12 steps – along with my sponsor and some of the members of the fellowship are who I credit with helping me achieve sobriety. People in the fellowship (who attend meetings) – contrary to my earlier beliefs – are not necessarily sober or drug-free or, if sober or drug-free, not necessarily self-accepting, sane, or on the path I am on. And unless others know who they are, they can – with no efficacy – help you get to knowing who YOU are. So don’t believe everything you hear or see. This addendum is important to note for my own peace of mind because in early sobriety, I was willing to do what anyone _in the rooms_ suggested. I will make a lengthier post about this eventually. :)